Steinmetz: Official's call negates great games

The worst part about referee Bob Delaney’s offensive foul call on Monta Ellis at the end of the Warriors-Los Angeles Lakers game Monday wasn’t necessarily the call itself.

No. The worst part is that fans are talking about an official’s questionable late whistle instead of all the other stuff that happened during two of the most competitive, scintillating NBA games of the season. It stinks that 90 percent of the discussion regarding a wonderful back-to-back miniseries between the Warriors and Lakers will focus on the final three seconds instead of the previous 95 minutes, 57 seconds.

Not to mention that every fan at Oracle Arena or watching on television was deprived of seeing what would have happened on that final Warriors possession in overtime. Thinking about the unfulfilling conclusion to the Lakers’ 123-119 overtime win, I couldn’t help but think that Warriors fans got stuck with the most brutal kind of loss.

Indeed, it would have been significantly more palatable had Baron Davis missed a wide-open 3-pointer at the buzzer that could have won the game.

Even Kobe Bryant making a steal in that situation would have been less infuriating.

Of all the things said in the postgame analysis, the one I disagree with most, however, is the notion that the play should have been a no-call.

Itcouldn’t be a no-call, even though everyone agrees players — and not the officials — should determine the outcome of the game. But when Derek Fisher interjects himself into a play like that, starts forcing contact and bodies get strewn, it’s impossible to not make a call.

This isn’t rugby. An official can’t let that kind of blatant physicality go regardless of whether the game is on the line or not.

Taking a look at the replay, it’s clear that the seeds of Delaney’s call were planted even before Stephen Jackson received the ball to inbound it at halfcourt. Bryant and Davis literally had their arms wrapped around each other. Sasha Vujacic and Kelenna Azubuike were virtually embracing. Fisher and Ellis were already grabbing each other.

So physical was the action that Bryant and Davis almost went down a second or two before Fisher and Ellis hit the floor. Al Harrington eventually hit the deck, too.

Adding to the intrigue, Fisher is someone who has earned a reputation for willingly throwing his body in front of just about anything moving in another uniform. Even Warriors coach Don Nelson referred to Fisher as a “flopper” afterward.

What also hurts for the Warriors is that the loss itself was costly. A victory would have tied them with the Dallas Mavericks and kept them 1½ games ahead of the Denver Nuggets in the battle for two of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Davis, Ellis, Bryant and Lamar Odom made a slew of remarkable plays that sometimes left you shaking your head in disbelief. Unfortunately, when the game was on the line, a play was made that left you scratching your head in disbelief.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

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